ASAP: Agroforestry Shelterbelts for an Adapting Philippines
Agroforestry systems can form part of an adaptation strategy by reducing erosion and sheltering crops from natural disasters, more so strong winds, according to Craig Jamieson at the First International Agroforestry Congress in Bohol, Philippines, as reported by Amy Christine Cruz
“The Philippines is under attack!” warned Craig Jamieson, a researcher from the World Agroforestry Centre Philippines, during a session on improving the science and practice of agroforestry.
“According to the World Bank in 2012, the Philippines is the country most vulnerable to storms. The other countries in the top five are Bangladesh, Madagascar, Viet Nam and Moldova. The picture gets worse as climate change comes in: typhoons get stronger and take more and more unusual paths”.
The prime example of this is the super-typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda), which struck last 8 November 2013, devastating the Leyte area of the Philippines. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations said that Haiyan’s total damages to agriculture reached up to USD 723 million. And coastal communities lost 65% of their fishing equipment.
Mangroves: first in line to defend
A largely agricultural country like the Philippines depends on the climate for its sustenance, livelihoods and economy. However, in order to defend itself from climate change and natural disasters, the country must adapt.
One way to do this is through an integrated mangrove system, which incorporates a mix of mangrove species along with food production and support for local livelihoods.
An integrated system has two zones: one for shelter and the other for harvest. The shelter zone, which is found in the deeper areas of the mangrove system, serves as a bulwark against wind and waves. It also serves as a breeding ground for fish. Dr Jamieson said that for every hectare of mangrove, 0.67 tonnes of fish are produced each year. To maintain the system, he suggests using payments-for-ecosystem-services’ schemes that would reward people for protecting the mangroves.
The second area is the harvest zone, which is found in the shallow areas of the system. This zone can provide food by attracting crabs that thrive amongst the mangrove roots. Also found in the harvest zone is the nipa palm (Nypa fruticans), which is an excellent source of biofuel or feed for livestock. So not only do mangrove systems protect, they also improve the livelihoods of the people living near them by providing additional sources of income.
Many benefits through conservation agriculture with trees
Another way to defend the country from climate change is through conservation agriculture with trees. Mindanao is a prime example of how such systems work. During typhoon Bopha (local name Pablo), which struck on 3 December 2012 with maximum wind speeds of 275 kph and resulted in more than PHP 40 billion in damages, monocultures of maize and banana were flattened. On the other hand, conservation agriculture sites showed less damage and recovered quickly.
Not only does conservation agriculture with trees promote fast recovery, it also reduces the effects of erosion. Gulleys that were formed by heavy rains in August 2012 were verdant in photographs just two years later, in February 2014. However, a study on the role of trees on farms, which was supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry and conducted by World Agroforestry Centre Philippines’ researcher Laya Espaldon, indicated that a high number of smallholders showed a lack of appreciation of the roles that trees played in farming activities.
Challenge to increase awareness of benefits of trees
This means despite the advantages of promoting agroforestry systems, many farmers do not see how they could benefit fromthem. Thus, one of the challenges agroforestry researchers and practitioners in the Philippines face is increasing the farmers’ awareness of the benefits of trees.
As the world’s most vulnerable country to typhoons, the Philippines must urgently learn to adapt to climate change. As shelterbelts, agroforestry systems could fit as a multi-faceted adaptation strategy.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2014. Typhoon Haiyan. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. http://www.fao.org/emergencies/crisis/philippines-typhoon-haiyan/en/
World Bank. 2012. Turn down the heat: why a 4 °C warmer world must be avoided. Washington, DC: World Bank. http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2012/11/18/Climate-change-report-warns-dramatically-warmer-world-this-century
This work is supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry